A Wicked Little Story…

I found this in my ‘fiction cold storage locker.’ It’s a wicked little story. The recipe exists, but the story is FICTION…

A Brisket to Die For

            I won’t say that this is a true story. I can’t fact check it in any reliable or professional manner and most of the players are dead, so I’ll just share it as I heard it and let you decide for yourself. I will say that the brisket recipe at the heart of this story is a killer! I’m a 55-year-old mother of three and the last time I brought it to a potluck dinner I received marriage proposals from three married men and married lesbian foodie. It’s the kind of magical home cooking that restaurateurs promote as “comfort cuisine.” To me, it’s just Zelda’s easy brisket.

            Augusta Zelda Hirschberg, nee Gussie Goldman, dropped her annoying first name when she acquired a new last name on the day she married Milton Hirschberg—the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants—in 1930. Having grown up in a strictly Kosher kitchen, Zelda was intrigued and inspired by her secular mother-in-law’s paprikash, goulash, lemon mousse, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and more.

            Zelda was an adventurous cook and while she raised her two daughters she explored cuisines from Morocco to Shanghai and from North Carolina to New England. She made soup dumplings before they were a “gourmet thing” in New York’s Chinatown and served couscous to skeptical ladies from the PTA.

            As for child rearing, Zelda had a singular goal and she did everything she believed was necessary to see that both of her girls were matched with suitable husbands. She told them—and everyone else who would listen—that a reasonably attractive woman with the ability to cook should have no trouble finding and keeping a husband. She saw her 60-year marriage to Milton as a testament to the righteousness of her approach to life. Zelda and Milton grew stout together and no admonitions from the family doctor deterred her from expressing love with food rich in salt, fat and sugar.

            All went well—until it didn’t.

            The doctor husband of Zelda’s younger daughter Suzanne was playing around with the nurse in his pediatric practice. People were starting to gossip. Jerry was long known to flirt with numerous divorced mothers, but this time his behavior was different. His infidelity was flagrant and Suzanne sat at her mother’s kitchen table in tears.

            “I think the shiksa is pregnant.”

            “He can’t leave you for her!” Zelda insisted.

            “What’s to stop him?” Suzanne gestured down passed her ample bosom too her belly and continued. “How can I compete with a tall, slender nurse? She’s got a bikini body and I’m… I’m fat and old!
            “And you are the mother of his children. You are his wife, his partner for 25 years. You were his receptionist when he opened his practice and couldn’t afford to hire one. You scrimped and saved so he could pay off his student loans. You’re the mother of his two beautiful children! No sane man would jeopardize that!”

            “He will!” Suzanne wailed, pushing a plate of her mother’s buttery scones aside. “I have to lose 25 pounds now or 35 or…”

            “No! You have to lose 185 pounds.”

            “Mom! I’m not that big.”

            “Of course not dear. You’re not a pound over 160 and every bit of it is a womanly curve. He is 185—more like 200 pounds of overgrown baby if he thinks he is going to push you aside and start a new family with a skinny, blonde, nurse.”

            “But Mom, I thought you could help me convince him to stay… not help me divorce him?”

            “Who said anything about divorce? He has a choice. Either he goes back to being a real man or he dies. No, he doesn’t really have a choice. You are the one with the choice. Tomorrow night you will make brisket. If you want to lose 200 pounds of self-centered man, add a dash of this to his serving.”


            Suzanne asked as her mother pulled a small vial from the back of her spice cabinet and placed it on the table between them.

            “You heard me. He’ll have a heart attack a few hours after dinner.”

            “But Beth…”

            “Your daughter is still a vegetarian, no?”

            “Yes, but…”

            “She’s safe and, as long as you are careful not to eat off his plate, then you’re safe, too.”

            “But Mom, it’s murder!”

            “Is it? He has a weak heart and he weighs too much. A year with his sexy young nurse as a wife and the bills for the education of my grandchildren… The pressure will kill him in no time. You’d just be speeding things up. Putting the old dog down before he makes a fool of himself and destroys his family.

            “Beth will go off to college in three years,” Zelda continued. “Jake will finish Columbia in two. Do you think you can stretch your husband’s money to cover medical school for Jake, college for Beth, your house, AND supporting a new family? It’s not like adding a few extra potatoes to a brisket pot to feed an extra guest. This nurse will expect the best of him and you will get the leftovers, the table scraps!

            “Make the brisket. Talk to him and whatever he says… if he won’t make things right then put it in his second helping.”

            The doctor collapsed early the next morning. He was with his nurse “reviewing patient charts” or so she said, although the paramedics noted that her hair was disheveled and her blouse looked hastily buttoned. Was it the effort she took to revive his failing heart? Again, there is no way to fact check this or any other part of the story.

            The brisket is a killer recipe. With or without the extra ingredient, it slays hungry men.


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